Seamus Heaney, Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Seamus Heaney, Blackberry Picking

Mourid Barghouti, My Grandfather’s Cloak

With a gentle hand, the storm grasps
the handle of the door of the world;
like a hesitant stranger, it lets itself in,
stripping off its masks one after the other.
Dropping lightning into woods,
darkness into torches,
despair into ships,
the devil into horse’s hooves,
blueness into the lips of the carriage driver,
and throwing me naked
into the jaws of the night.
The storm
nearly wrenches loose the stag’s horns.
The muscles of the waves
almost push back the coastline.
The sea is a team of phosphorescent horses
whipped by unseen lashes;
they chomp the drizzle, the horizons and the stars
and carry on their flying hooves
the stench of sulphur.
There are no boats on the sea,
the harbour is a sheet of shattered porcelain.
Nothing protects the trembling coast,
not even the fur of the sea’s foam.
Two chairs on the sand escape the storm
as if they were two lame runners
in a race.
Even the most proficient of animal-tamers,
cannot restore the unfettered waves
to the guards’ control.
I take refuge in that house with the imposing dome,
merciful arches,
warm blankets
and my grandfathers’ pictures
(worn out at the edges
in spite of the solidity of their moustaches),
pictures secure on the walls
as if they were built into them.
My grandfather, still harbouring the illusion
that the world is fine,
fills his rustic pipe
for the last time
before the advent of helmets and bulldozers!
My grandfather’s cloak gets hooked
on the bulldozer’s teeth.
The bulldozer retreats a few metres,
empties its load,
comes back to fill its huge shovel,
and never has its fill.
Twenty times, the bulldozer
comes and goes,
my grandfather’s cloak still hooked on it.
After the dust and smoke
have cleared from the house that once stood there,
and as I stare at the new emptiness,
I see my grandfather wearing his cloak,
wearing the very same cloak –
not one similar to it,
but the same one.
He hugs me and maintains a silent gaze,
as if his look
could order the rubble to become a house,
could restore the curtains to the windows,
and my grandmother to her armchair,
as if it could retrieve her coloured medicine pills,
could lay the sheets back on the bed,
could hang the lights from the ceiling,
and the pictures from the walls,
as if his look could return the handles to the doors,
and the balconies to the stars,
and persuade us to resume our dinner,
as if the world had not collapsed,
as if Heaven had ears and eyes.
He goes on staring at the emptiness.
I say:
what shall we do when the soldiers leave?
What will he do when the soldiers leave?
He slowly clenches his fist,
recapturing a boxer’s resolve in his right hand,
his coarse bronze hand,
the hand that tames the thorny slope,
the hand that holds his hoe lightly
and with ease,
the hand which, with a single blow,
splits a tree stump in half,
the hand that opens in forgiveness,
the hand that closes on the candy
with which he surprises his grandchildren,
the hand that was amputated
many years ago.

Mourid Barghouti, My Grandfather’s Cloak

Seamus Heaney, Found Poem

Like everybody else, I bowed my head
during the consecration of the bread and wine,
lifted my eyes to the raised host and raised chalice,
believed (whatever it means) that a change occurred.
I went to the altar rails and received the mystery
on my tongue, returned to my place, shut my eyes fast, made
an act of thanksgiving, opened my eyes and felt
time starting up again.
There was never a scene
when I had it out with myself or with an other.
The loss of faith occurred off stage. Yet I cannot
disrespect words like ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘host’
or even ‘communion wafer.’ They have an undying
pallor and draw, like well water far down.

Seamus Heaney, Found Poem

W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Arundhathi Subramaniam, 5:46 Andheri Local

In a women’s compartment
of a Bombay local
we seek
no personal epiphanies.
Like metal licked by relentless acetylene
we are welded —
dreams, disasters,
germs, destinies,
flesh and organza,
odours and ovaries.
A thousand-limbed
million-tongued, multi spoused
Kali on wheels.

When I descend
I could choose
to dice carrots
or a lover.
I postpone the latter.

Arundhathi Subramaniam, 5:46 Andheri Local

Alastair Reid, My Father Dying

At summer’s succulent end,
the house is green-stained.
I reach for my father’s hand
and study his ancient nails.
Feeble-bodied, yet at intervals
a sweetness appears and prevails.
The heavy-scented night
seems to get at his throat.
It is as if the dark coughed.
In the other rooms of the house
the furniture stands mumchance.
Age has graved his face,
Cradling his wagged-out chin,
I shave him, feeling bones
stretching the waxed skin.
By his bed, the newspaper lies furled.
He has grown too old
to unfold the world,
which has dwindled to the size of a sheet.
His room has a stillness to it.
I do not call it waiting, but I wait,
anxious in the dark, to see if
the butterfly of his breath
has fluttered clear of death.
There is so much might be said,
dear old man, before I find you dead;
but we have become too separate
now in human time
to unravel all the interim
as your memory goes numb.
But there is no need for you to tell –
no words, no wise counsel,
no talk of dying well.
We have become mostly hands
and voices in your understanding.
The whole household is pending.
I am not ready
to be without your frail and wasted body,
your miscellaneous mind-way,
the faltering vein of your life.
Each evening, I am loath
to leave you to your death.
Nor will I dwell on
the endless, cumulative question
I ask, being your son.
But on any one
of these nights soon,
for you, the dark will not crack with dawn,
and then I will begin
with you that hesitant conversation
going on and on and on.

Alastair Reid, My Father Dying

Federico García Lorca, Guitar

The weeping of the guitar
begins.
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
begins.
Useless
to silence it.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
Impossible
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
things.
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

Federico García Lorca, Guitar